As the expiration of the $600 weekly unemployment benefit nears, Democrats on Thursday rejected a short-term deal seeking to extend the benefit. According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, the Trump administration had offered the olive branch as negotiations regarding the HEALS Act remain deadlocked.
While Mnuchin refrained from providing details regarding what that short-term deal entailed, he said that after a nearly two-hour meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a deal was not reached. Mnuchin claimed that "as of now they've repeated they don't want to do that," according to The Hill. Meadows, who claimed on Twitter that the proposal offered a "temporary extension of needed unemployment assistance," it was "not received warmly."
Emerging from the meeting, Pelosi and Schumer had suggested that the proposal presented did not meet the crisis sparked by the pandemic and accused the administration of not understanding "the gravity of the problem." Schumer said that crisis would require "really, good, strong bold action," but the administration doesn't "quite get that." Pelosi, however, did state that she believed Meadows and Mnuchin "understand that we have to have a bill," though she cast doubt that they understand "how big it has to be."
It is unclear if that proposal would have extended the benefit in its full amount, something Democrats have remained steadfast on, or if it extended the bonus at a reduced figure, such as under the HEALS Act. Under that GOP proposal, the benefit, which had been introduced and passed under the March-approved CARES Act, would be cut from $600 to just $200 per week. While Democrats want to see the benefit extended through the new year, the GOP's proposal would only renew it at the reduced rate through September, after which a new formula would be implemented that would cap unemployment benefits at 70% of a person's wages before they had lost their job.
As negotiations regarding that package remained deadlocked, garnering opposition from both sides of the aisle as discussions entered their fourth day, Trump and his chief of staff had suggested they were interested and hoping to strike a deal with Democrats on a proposal that would target the key issues of unemployment benefits and evictions, safeguards that are both set to soon expire. When questioned about the meeting, Meadows had told reporters that he believed it would revolve around "trying to resolve the enhanced unemployment issue" as well as "address the eviction provisions that hopefully will keep people from being evicted from the homes."
Mnuchin, Meadows, Pelosi, and Schumer are expected to meet for a fifth straight day of negotiations Friday. The Hill reports that this meeting will likely take place via the phone. They will then meet in person to continue discussions on Saturday.